Regardless of what “RSS” stands for (depends on who you talk to), the definition is rather, well, simple. You need it. You’ll want it. It’s coming anyway.
RSS is a lightweight XML format designed to share headlines and other Internet content. Think of it as a distributable “what’s new” for a web site.
It’s distributable, which means the headline and a brief summary (more more) can be quickly distributed and shared between web sites, and to users (you).
What you don’t need to know is how it works inside, but you do need to know how it works for you, what it does that’s valuable, how to get it running, and what’s going to happen soon, because it’s coming to a Mac near you whether you like it or not.
Don’t be afraid.
At the bottom left hand corner of this site’s home page (RSS links are usually found on the home page of a site) you’ll find a heading that says, “RSS – Syndication”. Below that are some links; RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0, and RSS Atom (there are others).
Click on RSS 1.0 while in your browser and the page should show a huge, ugly paragraph of text. Don’t worry. What you did is what you’re not supposed to do. RSS has another way of helping you to all the greatest headlines and summaries of Internet sites you could ever want. Safari will integrate RSS with a new version to be released with Mac OS X Tiger (perhaps early next year).
To take full advantage of the cool things that RSS can do and your browser canNOT do, download any one of a number of FREE RSS newsreaders. The one I like most and recommend first is NetNewsWire Lite, available from Ranchero Software. Click Here to get it. Download the Lite version and install on your Mac (Mac OS X only).
Once installed, double-click and look at the basic web sites (usually Mac oriented) listed within NetNewsWire Lite. There’s MacMinute (my favorite), MacDailyNews (go there daily), and others.
Here’s where RSS shines.
It saves you clicks and load time. If you visit many sites during the week to search for new and updated news, then you know what a pain all that clicking can be. Click to the site. Wait. Click on the headlines. Wait. Read the article. Click back. Click on another headline.
Go to another web site. Click, click, click. The whole process is mind-numbing and takes effort and patience.
RSS elimnates that whole click click click process and BRINGS those headlines and article summaries to you. And you get to decide which ones you want. That’s what RSS does very well.
OK, back to NetNewsWire Lite. There’s only a handful of sites set up for you to start. You have to take over and decide which sites you want to list. Let’s start with my site.
Use your browser and go to the home page. At the bottom left, you’ll see that “RSS 1.0” link. On your one-button Mac mouse, control-click (press the control key, click and hold; right click for those of you with a two-button mouse). The pop up menu will have a selection that says, “Copy Link to Clipboard.”
Select, “Copy Link to Clipboard.”
Now, go back to NetNewsWire Lite and click on the “Subscribe” icon at the top. A pop up dialog box will ask you to Subscribe to New Source and give you a place to enter an RSS URL.
Paste my RSS link (you copied it above) into the space and click “OK.”
NetNewsWire will now save that link and look up the most recent Headlines and Summaries. The rest of NetNewsWire is pretty much self explanatory.
Click on a site icon in the left column and the Headlines available appear in the top right column. Click on a Headline in the top right column and the summary and link appears in the bottom right column.
That’s it. Really.
You could add hundreds of sites with RSS links just like that. Scanning through those Headlines and Summaries is about 10 times faster than using your browser. Why isn’t everyone using RSS? Well, first, you have to go through those steps above and that takes some thinking and effort.
Why doesn’t someone build RSS right into your browser?
Hmmm. Great idea. That’s what Apple thought, too, so look for a future version of Safari to have RSS built right in. That makes browsing to many different sites MUCH easier than the old point, click, read, click, click, click, point, click, read routine.